Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Sauna & Swim in Sofia

Before the Red Cross camp opened for the caving conference, I had to stay one night somewhere, and have a place for some work conference calls. I ended up selecting the Tsarsko Selo Spa hotel. An interesting place, with many saunas and pools :-)

First off, there seemed to be a continuous stream of weddings arranged on the yard in front of my room. But more interestingly, the place is primarily a football team practice space(!). And, for me, the important thing was of course that there were saunas and pools :-)

There were 4-5 different saunas, one big pool inside, one sunbathing pool area outside, and one cold pool. Not bad!

The inside pool:

The outside pool:

 The sauna:

Photos and text (c) 2019 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. Read more swimming and sauna stories from and! And all sauna or pool photos have always been taken when there were no other visitors, after closing hours, or with permission.

Holy shit, it starts!

It is amazing. Who would have believed that replacing a broken starter motor makes the car start nicely?

But this happened. Even the feeling about the entire car is now different, because the starts do not feel like the entire engine is about to break.

Photos and text (c) 2019 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Hot pool in Santa Cruz

I stayed one night at the Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley, on a work trip. They had a pool... and a jacuzzi. Not bad.

More swimming stories from The pictures and text in this post are (c) 2019 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Moon over the missile base

I felt the urge to visit odd places, and an old Nike missile base seemed to fit the bill. But, I was quickly losing light on the only day that I could do this. Then the shortcut turned out to be non-passable, and the short hike turned into a 8-kilometre trek on steep hills. In darkness. And, somebody had removed the ruins. Trip ruined? Not quite, the moon and the sea were wonderful in the darkness.

Also, I found a smiley!

Oddly enough, all Internet sources that I had read about this site indicated that I'd find buildings on the missile site, but they must have been recently removed. All that remained were the concrete slabs the buildings were built on top.

The site is on the Sweeney Ridge, a 1200-ft mountain range between the San Francisco airport and the Pacific Ocean. I learned about the place from the always excellent Atlas Obscura. The coordinates are N 37.613 W 122.459. There's good parking at the end of Sneath Lane on the east side of the ridge.

Views from the ridge, over the San Francisco airport below:

Graffiti on the concrete slab remains of the missile site:

Sunset from the ridge:

I don't know what this was about...

 Sign at the site, with the added note about nothing left...

Concrete slabs, with moon above:

Fog on descent:

This article has also appeared in TGR. Read more urban exploration stories from! And follow all stories from t he Planetskier and Planetcaver at Blogspot and TGR. Photos and text (c) 2019 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Today's busses

Today's busses are #350 and then #380.

Photos and text (c) 2019 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The last start ...

... of this starter motor. Hopefully fixed by tomorrow.

Unless it's the engine... in which case we'll have to see.

Photos and videos (c) 2019 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Caving equipment store?

I got an advertisement today from, a Finnish electronics store. The advertisement goes "everything for any cave" (or "kaikkea löytyy luolaan kuin luolaan" in Finnish). I think they meant to man caves etc, but I immediately headed to the shop to see if there was caving equipment to be bought :-)

There wasn't.

See more caving stories at! Photos and text (c) 2019. All rights reserved.

Banff Mountain Festival 2019

This evening I'm at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Helsinki. The movies are about skiing, mountain biking, surfing, and caving. Looking forward to the film's, they've always been powerful stories.

The festival runs for two evenings but I can only join for the first one due to some work travel tomorrow.

I was surprised to see Paul MacKrill starring in the caving film Ario Dream! This is a great film about exploration in a cave system that may some day become Europe's deepest cave. The feeling of remoteness, claustrophobia, fears come through to the viewers quite nicely in the film :-)

Jimmy Petterson's "Skiing around the world" Vol II was also on sale at the event. Jimmy has skied in 75 countries (a dozen more than me), and the book is a wonderful collection of stories of photos from his tours.

See all skiing stories at and all caving stories at! Photos and text (c) 2019 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

CMH at Amer Sports

I went to a marketing show of the Canadian Heli-ski operator, the legendary CMH, as they were visiting Helsinki.

Lots of talk about how great it is. No mention of the 10 000 € price.

I think I'll earn my own turns by some other way :-)

Photos and text (c) 2019 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. And all Planetskier stories can of course be found from!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Monsters in the Duhlata Cave

If you go deep into a cave, you may encounter monsters! Or at least, white stalactite dental work :-)

The monsters may attack unsuspecting cavers:

We also saw what appeared to be someone who apparently misbehaved in some manner and got turned into a salt column:

The Duhlata cave lies under the Vitosha mountain near Sofia, Bulgaria. It is the longest cave in Bulgaria, with continued exploration activities reaching up to 26 km. I joined a tour in this interesting cave as part of the Eurospeleo 2019 activities.

This cave was the site of a famous Bulgarian cave rescue in 2010, when 7 people got stranded in the cave due to rising flood water. They were eventually rescued, but the situation also lead to the closing of the cave. To enter through the locked gates everyone must now acquire a permission from the city's mayor.

Our tour was quite varied. Entering the cave brought about the most challenging squeeze of the trip on the first few meters. Then we continued through various descents (nervously not belayed) until we reached one of the six rivers crossing through it at the level -64 meters. Following the river on a narrow but high passage you can reach the monster room with the white stalactites, but there are varied cave forms throughout the cave:

I personally found the unroped climbing sections and the few constrictions most difficult on the trip. Here are some pictures of the narrow or low passages:

But it was a wonderful tour overall, and a great group. Very nice to have met more cavers from around Europe. Here are some pictures of the team having breaks, helping each other in the climbing sections, etc:

At the end of the day, I felt like I deserved a glass of wine, so I went for the "Speleobar". Fortunately, I was able to find seating quickly. (This was like 1min after opening, later it filled more...)

This article has also appeared in TGR. Tämä artikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. See all the caving and urban exploration stories at and, or take a look all the stores at Blogspot and TGR! Photos and text (c) 2019 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Hiking to the abandoned missile base

The base is not easy to find; there's a lot of tours on sale to visit the military wonders of Vis, but little actual information. I discovered the location of the base by looking at Google Maps satellite photos, but the Secret Croatia blog also helped...

On the there are eerie rock "tents" that disguise ventilation shafts and escape stairs to the large bunker under the hill. The escape stairs can also reached from inside the bunker, but I did not dare to climb them on this visit. They look inviting, however :-)

The bunker itself is a large, curving tunnel designed for large mobile missile launchers. Both ends have been covered by wires and painted styrofoam.

At the middle of the tunnel there are side roads and bombproof doors leading to odd, tile-floored rooms. Their purpose is a mystery.

If you are interested in visiting, look west from Podhumlje on Vis. The access is difficult, I decided to park my car and walk kilometres instead of getting stuck on the way back, like another car did. The walk in the falling darkness made my trip even more eerie than it already was.

This article has also appeared at TGR. See all the caving and urban exploration stories at and, or take a look all the stores at Blogspot and TGR! Photos and text (c) 2019 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Snow White Hall Photography Trip

Jukka and I wanted to continue our photography experiments further up in the Lummelunda cave. The most interesting stalactites are in the Snow White Hall (Snövitsalen), beyond the half-way point in the cave. This turned out to be a very long trip, however, and one where we run out of all of our lights...

What we thought to be maybe a three-hour trip turned out to seven hours. First, it is slow going to drag equipment sacks while crawling or dragging yourself forward on your stomach. Second, we took an unplanned photography stop to let the rest of our bigger group proceed on their own. But third, it takes a long time to shoot, even all you take is photos from a small group of stalactites. Setting up the lights takes a long time, particularly while trying to avoid the equipment getting muddy. And many, many different views of the same stalactites from different directions :-)

The Snow White Hall is a bit past the Inre Sjön, a small lake and a sump that is pumped empty so that  cavers can pass forward. But Inre Sjön is maybe a kilometer of crawling and dragging into the cave, so it takes time. When we settled to go back we were already tired and the long path back made it only worse. As we were nearing the easier parts of the cave, Jukka's light went out. His second light had for some reason already stopped working.

But I was so tired that I didn't even hear his complaint about the light, and we continued forward, I guess with the help of my light. I had a backup light, which we needed when we wanted to take a few additional photographs from the final boat ride in the cave. By now I had understood that Jukka's light was out, and I gave my backup light to him. But soon that failed. As we arrived on the boat harbour my main light died, and we were now in complete darkness. Easy to walk back on the man-made exit tunnel, but little unnerving to have run out of light, even if we were close to the exit.

Lesson of the day: have at least three lights on everyone, even if you think your trip will be short. I plan to acquire some extra batteries for my laps as well, to go for three lamps and one extra battery.

More photos:

The crack and the crackhead:

Jukka taking photos:

This article has also appeared in TGR. Tämä artikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. See all the caving stories at, or take a look all the stories at Blogspot and TGR! Photos and text (c) 2019 by Jari Arkko and Jukka Palm. All rights reserved.